Thinking about time tracking

| geek, quantified

One of the insights I liked from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” was on getting more out of your time by combining different needs or goals. Instead of keeping exercise and socializing separate, for example, you can combine them by jogging with a friend. It’s like the way the negotiation book “Getting to Yes” reminds me to focus on interests rather than positions, opening up creative possibilities that combine different aspects.

A lot of what I do is like that: interests that support more than one goal, activities that build on each other. The straightforward time tracking I did with Time Recording (Android) allows me to capture one category for each time segment, but it doesn’t capture those subtleties.

Time to take a step back and think:

  • What questions do I want to ask about how I want to spend my time?
  • How do I want to shift the time I spend?

Here are some things I’m working on learning:

  • How much time does it take me to accomplish common tasks, such as getting ready for work, getting to work, or doing my daily routines?
  • Am I spending too much time on formal work activities or other tasks? Can I shift the time to things that are important but may not be urgent?
  • How early can I push my wake-up time while staying in sync with other people?
  • Am I getting enough exercise each week? How can I build in more consistent exercises for strength?
  • How much discretionary time do I have? Am I happy with the way I spend it? Can I get more value from that time?
  • What are the little things that make me happy or unhappy?


  1. Continue to use Time Recording. Use the tasks to track the primary category and the notes to track any secondary or tertiary categories. Use fancy spreadsheet wizardry to generate reports.
  2. Find another time tracker that keeps separate category timers and exports data as CSV. Possibly write my own numbercrunching program.
  3. Track only one thing at time.

I like the first option the most, because it works with my existing system and it’s flexible. I may write a short program for doing a little bit more analysis once my reporting settles down, because I’d like to see how often I get to creatively combine goals. Option 2 is more work, and option 3 won’t let me easily see other shifts while I’m tracking. So Time Recording it is, but with a slightly different way to use it.

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